Oliv. “Did he write this!”
Clo. “Ay, Madam.”
What you will.
If we say that Alida de Barberie did not cast a glance behind her, as the party quitted the wharf, in order to see whether the boat, that contained the commander of the cruiser, followed the example of the others, we shall probably pourtray the maiden as one that was less subject to the influence of coquetry than the truth would justify. To the great discontent of the Alderman, whatever might have been feelings of his niece, on the occasion, the barge continued to approach the shore, in a manner which showed, that the young sea+man betrayed no visible interest, in the result of the chase.
The heights of Staten Island, a century ago, were covered, much as they are at present, with a growth of dwarf trees. Foot paths led among this meagre vegetation, in divers directions, and as the hamlet at the Quarantine Ground was the point whence they all diverged, it required a practised guide to thread their mazes, without a loss of both time and distance. It would seem, however, that the worthy burgher was fully equal to the office for, moving with more than his usual agility, he soon led his companions into the wood, and by frequently altering his course, so completely confounded their sense of the relative bearings of places, that it is not probable one of them all could very readily have extricated himself from the labyrinth.
“Clouds and shady, bowers!” exclaimed Myndert, when he had achieved, to his own satisfaction, this evasion of the pursuit he wished to avoid; “little oaks and green pines are pleasant on a June morning. You shall have mountain air and a sea-breeze, Patroon, to quicken the appetite at the Lust in Rust. If Alida will speak, the girl can say that a mouthful of the elixir is better for a rosy cheek, than all the concoctions and washes that were ever invented to give a man a heart-ache.”
“If the place be at much changed as the road that leads to it,” returned la belle Barbèrie, glancing her dark eye, in vain, in the direction of the bay they had quitted, “I should scarcely venture an opinion, on a subject of which I am obliged to confess utter ignorance.”
“Ah, woman is nought but vanities! To see and to be seen is the delight of the sex. Though we are a thousand times more comfortable in this wood, than we should be in walking along the water-side, why, the sea+gulls and snipes lose the benefit of our company! The salt water, and all who live on it, are to be avoided by a wise man, Mr. Van Staats, except as they both serve to cheapen freight and to render trade brisk. You’ll thank me for this care, niece of mine, when you reach the bluff, cool as a package of furs free from moth, and fresh and beautiful as a Holland tulip, with the dew on it.”
“To resemble the latter one might consent to walk blindfold, dearest uncle, and so we dismiss the subject. François, fais moi le plaisir de porter ce petit livre; malgrè la fraîcheur de la fôret, j’ai besoin de m’èvanter.”
The valet took the book, with an empressement that defeated the more tardy politeness of the Patroon, and when he saw, by the vexed eye and flushed cheek of his young mistress, that she was incommoded, rather by an internal, than by the external heat, he whispered considerately —
“Que ma chère Mademoiselle Alide ne se fâche pas! Elle ne manquerait jamais d’admirateurs, dans un desert. Ah! si Mam’selle irait voir la patrie de ses ancêtres! — “
“’Merci bien, mon chèr; gardez les feuilles, fortement fermèes. Il y a des papiers, entr’ elles.”
“Monsieur François,” said the Alderman, separating his niece, with little ceremony, from her nearly parental attendant, by the interposition of his own bulky person, and motioning for the others to proceed, “a word with the in confidence. I have noted, in the course of a busy and I hope a profitable life, that a faithful servant is an honest counseller. Next to Holland and England, both of which are great commercial nations, and the Indies, which are necessary to these colonies, together with a natural preference for the land in which I was born, I have always been of opinion, that France is a very good sort of a country. I think, Mr. Francis, that dislike to the seas, has kept you from returning thither, since the decease of my late brother+in-law?”
“Wid like for Mam’selle Alide, Monsieur, avec votre permission.”
“Your affection for my niece, honest François, is not to be doubted. It is as certain as the payment of a good draught, by Crommeline, Van Stopper, and Van Gelt, of Amsterdam. Ah! old valet! she is fresh and blooming as a rose, and a girl of excellent qualities! ‘T is a pity that she is a little opinionated; a defect that she doubtless inherits from her Norman ancestors; since all of my family have ever been remarkable for listening to reason. The Normans were an obstinate race, as witness the seige of Rochelle, by which oversight real estate, in that city, must have lost much in value!”
“Mille excuses, Monsieur Bevre’ — ; more beautiful as de rose, and no opinâtre du tout. Mon dieu! pour sa qualitè, c’est une famille tres ancienne.”
“That was a weak point with my brother Barbèrie, and after all, it did not add a cypher to the sum total of the assets. The best blood, Mr. François, is that which has been best fed: The line of Hugh Capet himself, would fail, without the butcher, and the butcher would certainly fail without customers that can pay. François, thou art a man who understands the value of a sure footing in the world; would it not be a thousand pities, that such a girl as Alida, should throw herself away on one, whose best foundation is no better than a rolling ship?”
“Certainment, Monsieur, Mam’selle be too good to roll in de ship.”
“Obliged to follow a husband, up and down; among freebooters and dishonest traders; in fair weather and foul; hot and cold; wet and dry; bilge-water and salt-water; cramps and nausea; salt-junk and no junk; gales and calms, and all for a hasty judgment formed in sanguine youth.”
The face of the valet had responded to the Alderman’s enumeration of the evils that would attend so ill judged a step in his niece, as faithfully, as if each muscle had been a mirror to reflect the contortions of one suffering under the malady of the sea.
“Parbleu, c’est horrible cette mer!” he ejaculated, when the other had done.” It is grand malheur, dere should be watair but for drink, and for le propretè, avec fosse to keep de carp round le château. Mais, Mam’selle be no haste jugement, and she shall have mari on la terre solide.”
“’T would be better, that the estate of my brother-in-law should be kept in sight, judicious François, than to be sent adrift on the high seas.”
“Dere vas marin dans la famille de Barberie, nevair.”
“Bonds and balances! if the savings of one I could name, frugal François, were added in current coin, the sum total would sink a common ship. You know it is my intention to remember Alida, in settling accounts with the world.”
“If Monsieur de Barberie vas ‘live, Monsieur Alderman, he should say des choses convenables; mais, malheureusement, mon chèr maitre est mort, and, sair, I shall be bold to remercier pour lui, et pour toute sa famille.”
“Women are perverse, and sometimes they have pleasure, in doing the very thing, they are desired not to do.”
“Ma foi, oui!”
“Prudent men should manage them, with soft words and rich gifts; with these they become orderly, as a pair of well broke geldings.”
“Monsieur know,” said the old valet, rubbing his hands and laughing with the subdued voice of a well bred domestic, though he could not conceal a jocular-wink; “pourtant il est garçon! Le cadeau be good for de demoiselles, and bettair as for de dames.”
“Wedlock and blinkers! it is we gâssons, as you call us, who ought to know. Your hen-pecked husband has no time to generalize among the sex, in order to understand the real quality of the article. Now, here is Van Staats of Kinderhook, faithful François; what think you of such a youth for a husband for Alida!”
“Pourtant, Mam’selle like de vivacitè; Monsieur le Patroon be nevair trop vif.”
“The more likely to be sure — Hist, I hear a footstep. We are followed — chased, perhaps, I should say, to speak in the language of these sea-gentry. Now is the time to show this Capt. Ludlow, how a Frenchman can wind him round his finger, on terra firma. Loiter in the rear, and draw our navigator on a wrong course. When he has run into a fog, come yourself, with all speed, to the oak on the bluff. There we shall await you.”
Flattered by this confidence, and really persuaded that he was furthering the happiness of her he served, the old valet nodded, in reply to the alderman’s wink and chuckle, and immediately relaxed his speed. The former pushed ahead and, in a minute, he and those who followed, had turned short to the left, and were out of sight.
Though faithfully and even affectionately attached to Alida, her servant had many of the qualifications of an European domestic. Trained in all the ruses of his profession, he was of that school which believes civilization is to be measured by artifice, and success lost some of its value, when it had been affected by the vulgar machinery of truth and common sense. No wonder then the retainer entered into the views of the Alderman, with more than a usual relish for the duty. He heard the cracking of the dried twigs, beneath the footstep of him, who followed, and in order that there might be no chance of missing the desired interview, the valet began to hum a French air, in so loud a key, as to be certain the sounds would reach any ear that was nigh. The twigs snapped more rapidly, the footsteps seemed nearer, and then the hero of the India-shawl sprang to the side of the expecting François.
The disappointment seemed mutual, and on the part of the domestic it entirely disconcerted all his pre-arranged schemes for misleading the commander of the Coquette. Not so with the bold mariner. So far from his self+possession being disturbed, it would have been no easy matter to restrain his audacity, even in situations, far more trying than any, in which he has yet been presented to the reader.
“What cheer, in thy woodland cruise, Monsieur Broad-Pennant?” he said, with infinite coolness, the instant his steady glance had ascertained they were alone. “This is safer navigation, for an officer of thy draught of water, than running about the bays in a periagua. What may be the longitude, and where-a-way did you part company from the consorts?”
“Sair, I valk in de vood for de plaisir, and I go on de bay for de — parbleu, non! ‘tis to follow ma jeune maîtresse I go on de bay, and sair, I wish dey who do love de bay and de sea, would not come into de vood, du tout.”
“Well spoken, and with ample spirit; — what, a student too! one in a wood should glean something from his labours. Is it the art of furling a main cue, that is taught in this pretty volume?”
As the mariner put his question, he very deliberately took the book from François, who, instead of resenting the liberty, rather offered the volume, in exultation.
“No, sair, it is not how to furl la queue, but how to touch de soul; not de art to haul over de calm, but — oui, c’est plein de connoissance et d’ esprit! Ah! ha! you know de Cid! le grand homme! l’homme de gènie! If you read, Monsieur Marin, you shall see la vraie poèsie! Not de big book and no single rhyme — Sair, I do not vish to say vat is pènible, mais it is not one book widout rhyme; it was not ecrit on de sea. Le diable! que la vraie gènie, et les nobles sentiments, se trouvent dans ce livre, la!”
“Ay, I see it is a log-book, for every man to note his mind in. I return you, Master Cid, with his fine sentiments, in the bargain. Great as was his genius it would seem he was not the man to write all, that I find between the leaves.”
“He not write him all! Yes, Sair, he shall write him six time more dan all, if la France a besoin. Que l’envie de ces Anglais se dècouvre quand on parle des beaux gènies de la France!”
“I will only say, if the gentleman wrote the whole, that is in the book, and it is as fine as you would make a plain sea- faring man believe, he did wrong not to print it.”
“Print!” echoed François, opening his eyes, and the volume by a common impulse. “Imprimè! ha! here is papier of Mam’selle Alide, assurèment.”
“Take better heed of it then,” interrupted the seaman of the shawl. “As for your Cid, to me it is an useless volume, since it teaches neither the latitude of a shoal, nor the shape of a coast.”
“Sair, it teach de morale; de rock of de passion, et les grands mouvements de l’ame! Oui, Sair; it teach all, un Monsieur vish to know. Tout le monde read him in la France; en province, comme en ville. If sa Majestè, le Grand Louis, be not so mal avisè, as to chasser Messieurs les Huguenots from his royaume, I shall go to Paris, to hear le Cid, moi-même!”
“A good journey to you, Monsieur Cue. We may meet on the road, until which time I take my departure. The day may come, when we shall converse with a rolling sea beneath us. Till then, brave cheer!”
“Adieu, Monsieur,” returned François, bowing with a politeness that had become too familiar to be forgotten. “If we do not meet but in de sea, we shall not meet, nevair. Ah, ha, ha! Monsieur le Marin n’aime pas à entendre parler de la gloire de la France! Je voudrais bien savoir lire ce f — e Shak-a- spear, pour voir, combien l’immortel Corneille en est le supèrieur. Ma foi, oui; Monsieur Pierre Corneille est vraiment un homme illustre!”
The faithful, self-complacent, and aged valet, then pursued his way towards the large oak on the bluff, for as he ceased speaking, the mariner of the gay sash, had turned deeper into the woods and left him alone. Proud of the manner, in which he had met the audacity of the stranger, prouder still of the reputation of the author, whose fame had been known in France, long before his own departure from Europe, and not a little consoled with the reflection, that he had contributed his mite, to support the honor of his distant and well beloved country, the honest François pressed the volume affectionately beneath his arm, and hastened on after his mistress.
Though the position of Staten Island and its surrounding bays is so familiar to the Manhattanese, an explanation of the localities may be agreeable to readers, who dwell at a distance from the scene of the tale.
It has already been said that the principal communication between the bays of Rariton and York, is called the Narrows. At the mouth of this passage, the land on Staten Island rises in a high bluff, which overhangs the water, not unlike the tale- fraught cape of Misenum. From this elevated point, the eye not only commands a view of both estuaries and the city, but it looks far beyond the point of Sandy Hook, into the open sea. It is here that, in our own days, ships are first noted in the offing, and whence the news of the approach of his vessel, is communicated to the expecting merchant, by means of the telegraph. In the early part of the last century, arrivals were too rare, to support such an establishment. The bluff was therefore little resorted to, except by some occasional admirer of scenery, those countrymen whom business, at long intervals, drew to the spot. It had been early cleared of its wood, and the oak already mentioned, was the only tree standing in a space of some ten, or a dozen acres.
It has been seen that Alderman Van Beverout had appointed this solitary oak, as the place of rendezvous with François. Thither then he took his way on parting from the valet, and to this spot we must now transfer the scene. A rude seat had been placed around the root of the tree, and here the whole party, with the exception of the absent domestic, were soon seated. In a minute, however, they were joined by the exulting François, who immediately related the particulars of his recent interview, with the stranger.
“A clear conscience, with cordial friends, and a fair balance sheet may keep a man warm in January, even in this climate,” said the Alderman, willing to turn the discourse; “but what with rebellious blacks, hot streets and spoiling furs, it passeth mortal powers to keep cool in yonder over-grown and crowded town. Thou seest, Patroon, the spot of white on the opposite side of the bay. — Breezes and fanning! that is the Lust in Rust, where cordial enters the mouth at every breath, and where a man has room to cast up the sum total of his thoughts, any hour in the twenty four.”
“We seem quite as effectually alone on this hill, with the advantage of having a city in the view,” remarked Alida, with an emphasis that shewed, she meant even more than she expressed.
“We are by ourselves, niece of mine,” returned the Alderman, rubbing his hands as if he secretly felicitated himself, that the fact were so. “That truth cannot be denied, and good company we are, though the opinion comes from one, who is not a cypher in the party. Modesty is a poor man’s wealth, but as we grow substantial in the world, Patroon, one can afford to begin to speak truth of himself, as well as of his neighbour.”
“In which case little, but good, will be uttered from the mouth of Alderman Van Beverout,” said Ludlow, appearing so suddenly from behind the root of the tree, as effectually to shut the mouth of the burgher. “My desire to offer the services of the ship, to your party, has led to this abrupt intrusion, and I hope will obtain its pardon.”
“The power to forgive is a prerogative of the Governor, who represents the Queen,” drily returned the Alderman. “If her Majesty has so little employment for her cruisers, that their captains can dispose of them, in behalf of old men and young maidens-why, happy is the age, and commerce should flourish!
“If the two duties are compatible, the greater the reason why a commander should felicitate himself, that he may be of service to so many. You are bound to the Jersey Highlands, Mr. Van Beverout?”
“I am bound to a comfortable, and very private abode, called the Lust in Rust, Capt. Cornelius Van Cuyler Ludlow.”
The young man bit his lip, and his healthful but brown cheek flushed a deeper red than common, though he preserved his composure.
“And I am bound to sea,” he soon said. “The wind is getting fresh, and your boat, which I see, at this moment, standing in for the islands, will find it difficult to make way against its force. The Coquette’s anchor will be a-weigh, in twenty minutes, and I shall find two hours of an ebbing tide and a top+gallant breeze, but too short a time for the pleasure of entertaining such guests. I am certain that the fears of la Belle will favour my wishes, whichsoever side of the question, her inclinations may happen to be.”
“And they are with her uncle;” quickly returned Alida. “I am so little of a sailor that prudence, if not pusillanimity, teaches me to depend on the experience of older heads.”
“Older I may not pretend to be,” said Ludlow, colouring,” but Mr. Van Beverout will see no pretension in believing myself as good a judge of wind and tide, as even he himself can be.”
“You are said to command her Majesty’s sloop with skill, Capt. Ludlow, and it is creditable to the colony, that it has produced so good an officer; though I believe your grand+father came into the province, so lately as on the restoration of King Charles the second?”
“We cannot claim descent from the United Provinces, Alderman Van Beverout, on the parental side, but whatever may have been the political opinions of my grandfather, those of his descendant, have never been questioned. Let me entreat the fair Alida to take counsel of the apprehension I am sure she feels, and to persuade her uncle, that the Coquette is safer than his periagua.”
“It is said to be easier to enter than to quit your ship,” returned the laughing Alida. “By certain symptoms that attended our passage to the island, your Coquette, like others, is fond of conquest. One is not safe beneath so malign an influence.”
“This is a reputation given by our enemies. I had hoped for a different answer from la belle Barberie.”
The close of the sentence was uttered with an emphasis, that caused the blood to quicken its movement in the veins of the maiden. It was fortunate that neither of their companions was very observant, or else suspicions might have been excited, that a better intelligence existed between the young sailor and the heiress, than would have comported with their wishes and intentions.
“I had hoped for a different answer from la belle Barberie,” repeated Ludlow, in a lower voice, but with even a still more emphatic tone than before.
There was evidently a struggle in the mind of Alida. — She overcame it, before her confusion could be noted, and turning to the valet, she said with the composure and grace, that became a gentlewoman —
“Rends moi le livre, François.”
“Le voici — ah! ma chère Mam’selle Alide, que ce Monsieur marin se fâchait à cause de la gloire, et des beaux vers de notre illustre M. Pierre Corneille!”
“Here is an English sailor, that I am sure will not deny the merit of an admired writer, even though he come of a nation that is commonly thought hostile, François,” returned his mistress, smiling. “Capt. Ludlow, it is now a month since I am your debtor, by promise, for a volume of Corneille, and I here acquit myself of the obligation. When you have perused the contents of this book, with the attention they deserve, I may hope — “
“For a speedy opinion of their merits.”
“I was about to say to receive the volume again, as it is a legacy from my father,” steadily rejoined Alida.
“Legacies and foreign tongues!” muttered the Alderman. “One is well enough, but for the other, English and Dutch are all that the wisest man need learn. I never could understand an account of profit and loss in any other tongue, Patroon, and even a favorable balance never appears so great as it is, unless the account be rendered in one, or the other, of these rational dialects. Capt. Ludlow, we thank you for your politeness, but here is one of my fellows to tell us, that my own periagua is arrived, and wishing you a happy and a long cruise, as we say of lives, I bid you, adieu.”
The young seaman returned the salutations of the party, with a better grace, than his previous solicitude to persuade them to enter his ship, might have given reason to expect. He even saw them descend the hill, towards the water of the outer bay, with entire composure, and it was only after they had entered a thicket, which hid them from view, that he permitted his feelings to have sway.
Then indeed he drew the volume from his pocket, and opened its leaves with an eagerness he could no longer control. It seemed as if he expected to read more, in the pages, than the author had caused to be placed there; but when his eye caught sight of a sealed billet, the legacy of M. de Barberie fell at his feet, and the paper was torn asunder, with all the anxiety of one, who expected to find in its contents, a decree of life or death.
Amazement was clearly the first emotion of the young seaman. He read and re-read; struck his brow with his hand; gazed about him at the land and at the water; re-perused the note; examined the superscription, which was simply to ‘Capt. Ludlow of her Majesty’s ship Coquette’; smiled; muttered between his teeth; seemed vexed and yet delighted; read the note again, word by word, and finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of a man, who had found reason for both regret and satisfaction, in its contents.